Aslan is the lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the central figure of the Narnia Chronicles. The name comes from the Turkish word meaning “lion.” C.S. Lewis was straightforward in claiming that this character is “a divine figure.” Aslan is a symbol of Jesus Christ.
Why choose a lion? In the great heavenly throne vision of Revelation 5, Jesus is identified as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9). Strength and conquest are in the imagery of the lion.
One instructive scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the conversation of Susan, Lucy, and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan. When Susan finds out that Aslan is the great Lion, she asks, “Is he – quite safe?” She’s afraid of being nervous when meeting him. Mrs. Beaver is not reassuring:
That you will, dearie, and no mistake … if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.
Lucy then asks a follow-up question: “Then he isn’t safe?” Mrs. Beaver has a great reply:
’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.1
Lewis is illustrating the awe we should feel towards God and Christ. It’s a healthy reminder that they are in charge not us. God is the One who wields omnipotence and carries out His purposes. It’s a reminder that those who have had visions of the unseen were awestruck. Isaiah was keenly aware of his sinfulness and cried out “Woe is me.” The Apostle John “fell at his feet as though dead” when he saw the vision of Christ (Revelation 1:17).
Yet, the goodness is also present with the awesomeness. Isaiah received forgiveness, but he also received a new mission in life. John received the reassurance that Christ had conquered death. Great is God’s mercy. But the goodness is not necessarily safe, if we are thinking in terms of our own comfort. God is demanding. There is a cost to discipleship. An encounter with God should change us.
Underlying both passages is the great battle between good and evil. Isaiah’s message was repent or judgment would come. John must reassure Christians to “be faithful unto death” as they lived in a hostile environment. God is merciful, but to be outside that mercy is anything but safe.
Lewis was right. Trust in His goodness but approach with awe. He’s not a tame lion.
1C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p 86.